Full Moon Walk – Logistics and Pictures

After we had booked our flight to Argentina, I was researching things to do and found out about this Full Moon Walk that is offered 5 nights a month (two days before, day of, and two days after the full moon).  I was nervous to check the timing for October, but was pleasantly surprised to find that our trip fell within the window for the night visit!  I used this site to get information on the dates, cost, and times for the tour.

Iguazú - Full Moon Walk

The moonlit road to Garganta del Diablo

I sent an email to make a reservation and was sent three attachments – two info sheets (one in Spanish and one in English) and a booking form, which was only in Spanish.  Here’s the general info for the walk – it’s $500 pesos for the walk, plus $200 if you want to add dinner at La Selva, the restaurant in the park.  Transportation is not included in that cost.  There are three walks per night – one at 7:45pm, one at 8:30pm, and one at 9:15pm.  If you decide to add the dinner and you choose the earliest time, dinner has to be after the walk.  If you choose the middle time, you can eat either before or after, and if you choose the latest time, you have to eat dinner before the walk.

We chose to go with the middle time, and to eat dinner (after the walk – although we didn’t have to specify on the form).  Once I sent off the completed form, they charged my credit card, and I didn’t deal with the company at all until the day of the walk.  For transportation, I contacted our hotel, since we were staying in the park.  I didn’t know at the time, but the Sheraton isn’t actually at the main entrance.  In fact, we never went to the main entrance during our park visits.  So we arranged to have a taxi bring us to the front (it took just a few minutes) and also pick us up after the walk + dinner.  It seemed that most people, even those staying in Puerto Iguazú, arranged for a taxi ride with the taxi point services.

We got to the main entrance a bit before 8:30pm (the tour start time).  We didn’t have a voucher (I think if you book the trip while you’re there, in the park, you can pick up an actual voucher).  But our names were on the list, and we were brought in front of a shop to get our vouchers for the tour and for dinner.  There were a few stores still open, so we browsed while we waited for the tour to start.  Nothing happened until 9pm, when they gathered everyone around and explained a bit about the park (there was a Spanish and English group).  The group was about 100 people large, and we finally piled into the train around 9:20pm.  The walk to the falls was very peaceful.  We had just done the walk that afternoon, but for some people on the tour it would be their first time seeing the falls.

The Garganta de Diablo was magical at night.  The pictures don’t do it justice.  The waterfalls were flowing at a tremendous rate, so sometimes the mist would almost completely cover the falling water. We were so lucky that we had such a clear night.  In fact, they will cancel the walk if it’s too cloudy, since there are no lights to guide you other than the moon. We had about 25-30 minutes at the actual platform (it takes maybe 15 minutes to walk out there), and there were no issues getting great views from all angles, even with 100 people.

Garganta del Diablo at nightGarganta del Diablo at night #2

Kristin on the Full Moon Walk

I’m so glad I found out about that walk, and that it worked with the timing of our trip.  I chose the first available night (the second night of our trip) in case bad weather caused the walk to be canceled.  That way we could potentially rebook for the following night.  As I already mentioned, we were ver lucky and had a clear night for our visit.

Dinner at La Selva was pretty good.  Nothing great, but it was a buffet and had a meat station (I didn’t try anything, but Ryan did and enjoyed it).  Since we were staying at the Sheraton, I’m glad we ate at La Selva instead of driving into town, but if you’re staying in Puerto Iguazu, I’d opt to do the walk at 7:45 or 8:30 and then head back to town for dinner afterwards, since there are many dining options that are superior to La Selva.

I’m so glad this all worked out – I was a bit skeptical since booking the visit seemed a bit too easy, and didn’t require any follow-up.  It was a fun way to spend our second night in the park, and a great way to appreciate the falls without as much of a crowd.  While I wouldn’t go out of my way to rearrange my trip to plan around the full moon walk, it’s a bonus if you happen to be visiting at the right time!


My Turkish Bath Experience

Tip: If you want to go to one of the popular ones, be sure to book ahead!  We tried to book the morning of our desired visit (looking for a time around 7pm), but they were all booked up.  The hotel sent us to another bath – it wasn’t as nice, but the price reflected that so at least we saved some money!

First of all, a few logistics.  Men and women are in separate areas – at some of the baths, the times for women and men are actually different, so be sure to check on this before you plan!  For example, there was one that had men in the morning and evening, and women in the afternoon.  This wouldn’t have worked for us because we planned to go at the same time.  Women = naked (you don’t HAVE to be, but it’s normal) and men = naked with a towel kept around them at all times.  At least this is what we experienced at ours.

The bath we went to is called Cagaloglu Hamami.  It was open to both men and women from 8am – 10pm, and we were told by our hotel that we didn’t need reservations (it wasn’t very busy when we were there – around 6:30pm).  They offer a range of services, starting from self-service at €30 (you could also pay in TL or USD, but they did only accept cash – so we had to run to the ATM) all the way to the €110 “Sultan service” – full body scrubbing, a 15-minute dry massage, then a 15-minute foam massage (with two attendants!).  Ryan and I both chose something in between – the “exfoliating service,” which was €45 or 135 TL.  More about what that included later!

Changing room at the Turkish bath

After paying, we went our separate ways.  I was brought to a large changing room (pictured on the left – picture from the website), with separate locking rooms around the edges.  Each of the small rooms had a bed/cot, which I used to keep my clothes and purse.  We were provided with the key to our room, a towel, and wooden shoes.  I stripped down and brought only my hair tie and key with me (with my towel wrapped around and wooden shoes on!) and walked into the large marble bath room.

Upon entering, I was a bit disappointed.  There were two women wearing bathing suits, with 3 kids (maybe about 6-8 age range).  The kids were running around, splashing water, and being loud (or just being kids).  It was a bit frustrating because it was supposed to be a relaxing experience, but maybe that’s what you get when you don’t pay as much!  Luckily they didn’t stick around the whole time.

Turkish Bath

My attendant, Arzeau, told me to lay on the slab, which I did.  I put my towel down first and laid face up on top if it, and just tried to relax as best as I could.  Another woman came in a few minutes after me and did the same – laid down, waiting for her attendant to come back.  I stared at the domed ceiling, which had holes through it shaped like circles and stars, letting sunlight stream through.  The room was warm and somewhat steamy, but not as much as I expected.

About 15-20 minutes later, Arzeau came back in with a few bowls full of water and started dumping them onto my body.  I was still laying face up as she started to scrub me down.  She started at my face and worked her way down.  I was ready for it to hurt, since I had heard that the attendants are generally pretty rough with the scrubbing, but I was never uncomfortable.  Once she was done with the front, Arzeau instructed me to turn around and she scrubbed my back all the way down to the backs of my feet. The last section to scrub was done while sitting up – my armpits, arms, and sides of my torso.

Turkish Bath - ceiling

Once she was done scrubbing, Arzeau led me over to one of the sinks that surrounded the walls of the room.  She quickly rinsed me off, put my towel on the ground, and had me sit on it while she went to get the shampoo.  She came back and dumped water all over me until I was soaked, and then lathered up my hair with the shampoo, continuing down to the rest of my upper body.  Once that was done, I stood up, was rinsed off once more, and she was done! you can also check out malie.com/collections/botany-beauty/products/botany-beauty-luxe-eye-cream to buy the best shampoo products.

The entire service took maybe about 15-20 minutes, but as I mentioned above, there were other, more extensive services that were available for purchase.  The length of mine was just about right (for me).  I was allowed to stay in the bath area, so I went back to the marble slab to relax for another 15 or so minutes, not wanting to take too long because I figured Ryan would be waiting for me.

When I exited, I found myself in a room with dry towels, so I grabbed one and dried off before heading back to my locker room (I kept the towel with me, since I would have been naked – which is okay since it was still females only at this point).  There were also hair dryers available, but since my hair doesn’t cooperate well without some type of conditioner, I opted to leave it wet.  Arzeau came by and handed me a plastic bag with the scrubber she had used on me (a souvenir!) and I thanked her and tipped her 30TL – she was a good attendant and was not pushy at all about being tipped, which I’ve heard can happen.

What an experience!  I met Ryan at the outdoor cafe where he had already finished his coffee or tea, and had been waiting for me for 30 minutes.  His experience wasn’t quite as enjoyable as mine, and he was just ready to get a drink.

Would I recommend a turkish bath?  Yes, I think if you have the time, it’s a fun and different experience, assuming you are not too uncomfortable to be naked in front of strangers.  If we were to do it again, I would have made reservations and gone to a more upscale one, but the one we went to was fine and there were no real issues.  The bath was a nice break from a hot day of site seeing and, while it didn’t leave me without wanting a real shower later on, it did leave me feeling refreshed for the evening.

Cooking in Cusco

We had an opportunity to cook a few of the popular and traditional dishes of the Andean region.  Through our hotel, Encantada, we booked a lunchtime cooking class for two for $100 (before tip, but this did include the lessons and the food).  The restaurant is A Mi Manera, and it’s worth a visit even if you don’t take the cooking class.

We started out in the bar and we were provided with two menus.  We thought we would have to choose one, but they had each of us pick the one we wanted to do, so we did it all!  Here’s what the lineup looked like:

Drinks: Chicha Morada (Kristin), Pisco Sour (Ryan)
Starter: Quinoa Atamalada con Arroz (Kristin), Cebiche (Ryan)
Main: Rocoto Relleno (Kristin), Lomo Saltado (Ryan)
(Good news: some of the recipes are on the restuarant’s website!)

I started with my drink, the non-alcoholic chicha morada.  The base was pre-made, and it’s created by boiling purple corn and chilling the resulting mixture.  This made my part very simple: I cut up some pineapple, added juice from one juice, an ounce or so of simply sugar, and blended those with the purple corn juice in a blender.  Ryan’s pisco sour was a bit more complicated, involving an egg white and alcohol, but the result was delicious!

Cooking Class, A Mi Manera, Cusco, Peru, Drinks

Once our drinks were prepared, we moved over to the kitchen to start the real work.  The ingredients were already out and some of the early steps were pre-prepared for us.  I went to work on one side and Ryan on the other.  I started with the rocoto relleno (stuffed pepper) dish and Ryan with the cebiche.

For my dish, I started with a mixture of egg, milk, and cheese, which would eventually by poured into a dish with my pepper and potato.  I wish I knew what I stuffed the pepper with (it was pre-made by the chefs), but it was ground meat with veggies.  The potato was already boiled, so I just had to peel the skin and place it in the dish alongside the stuffed pepper.  Add a little sliced cheese on top, pour the egg/milk/cheese mixture in the dish, and it was done (well, after simmering on the stove and then baking in the oven).

Cooking Class, A Mi Manera, Cusco, Peru

Ryan’s cebiche (the recipe is on the site), was made with the expected fish (he used pejerrey), red onion, hot peppers, limes, and cilantro.  However, there was one surprise ingredient (missing on the recipe online): milk! Since Ryan made this dish first, the fish was able to sit in the acidic sauce and cook for the remainder of our class.

The lomo saltado and quinoa atamalada recipes are also on the website.  We had a lot of fun with this and we were able to mostly prepare it on our own (except for the rice and french fries).  We even shaped the rice into a pyramid and half sphere!  Ok, so we had some help with rice molds (here are a couple I’m thinking about ordering: pyramid and half sphere) – these were used for all dishes we ordered that came with a side of rice.

Cooking Class , A Mi Manera, Cusco, Peru

We ended the class by sitting down to enjoy our food (the finished products are pictured above)!  We dug right into the cebiche, which had already been sitting out for a good 20 minutes.  Neither of us were brave enough to try the “tiger’s milk” (ok, I wasn’t feeling well, otherwise I definitely would have), but we did enjoy the spicy result of the fish.  The quinoa was creamy, cheesy, and thick and perfect for a cool fall or winter day.  The lomo saltado tasted like the ones we had in Ollantaytambo at the restaurant – I think this is definitely something we’ll be able to recreate at home with little difficulty.  I do wish I had the details about the meat mixture that was stuffed inside the pepper.  It was much more flavorful than any stuffed pepper I’ve ever made.  I’m sure the Andean cheese on top helped that!

I would highly recommend this class to anyone who enjoys cooking and learning about a new type of cuisine.  It made the Peruvian dishes seem less intimidating, and I’m excited to try a few of them out at home!  Nati and her team were very sweet and helpful.

Napa Valley, New York?

One of our favorite activities during our trip to New York was visiting the High Line and the Cheslea Market.  Both were overcrowded, but very enjoyable, especially after a satisfying brunch.  The Chelsea Market reminded me a bit of what an expanded Ferry Building (in San Francisco) might look like – the same sort of feel and idea, but a lot more people and more shops and restaurants.

Chelsea Market, New York

To avoid the hordes of people and satisfy our wine addiction, we stopped into a wine shop, Chelsea Wine Vault, to explore.  Once there, we learned about a weekend “wine school class” they offer: each weekend features four wine from a specific region (it changes each weekend), and the class is taught by a sommelier.  It just so happens that our wines were all from Napa Valley – somewhere all four of us had been.  Since none of us had ever done anything quite like this, and because a little wine in the afternoon sounded delightful, we paid the $20/person and waited for the class to start. 

I’m so glad we took the class.  Not only did we try fantastic wines (my favorite was the 2010 Pine Ridge “Forefront” Cabernet Sauvignon – I left with a bottle and plan to visit the winery next time we’re in Napa), but we learned a lot about what to look for when tasting wines and evaluating wines.  We even had an official “Wine Evaluation Form” in our packet, which helps explain what “90+ points” means for a wine.  One fun fact we learned is that when wines are evaluated, they are only compared to wines of the same varietal, from the same region, and within the same price range.  

Wine Evaluation Form

Our sommelier was David Hunter, who personally tastes and buys all of the wine sold at the Chelsea Wine Vault.  He was funny and full of information – the hour-long class flew by and we were wishing it was longer.  We went through each section of the evaluation form, and I’d love to pass along some of the information we learned (a brief overview). 

1. Appearance (15 points) – color and clarity: hold your wine glass at a 45° angle against a white piece of paper to judge the color and clarity.  Is the color consistent all the way through?  Is it cloudy, chunky, hazy, or clear?

2. Nose (20 points) – cleanliness, complexity and bouquet: is the aroma appealing?  Or does it “hurt” you (think of smelling vodka)?  Does it smell like cheap perfume, is it too fruity, or does it have no smell? The complexity – how many aromas can you identify?  Are there multiple layers?  And finally, the bouquet is how the aromas come together – the overall smell.

3. Palate Impression (50 points) – body, texture, flavor, balance, and finish & aftertaste – how heavy does the wine feel on your tongue?  Is the texture smooth, does it “hurt” you (again, think about taking a shot of vodka), is it acidic (does it make your mouth water)?  Is each element balanced without one taking over (for example, not too sweet or too acidic)?  How long does the aftertaste stay in your mouth? If it’s under 30 seconds, it’s simple, if it’s between 30 seconds and one minute it’s medium, and if it’s over a minute, it’s complex.

4. Overall Assessment (15 points) – overall quality, value for your money, food compatibility, aging potential, and general appeal of the wine – is the wine good for the money?  What is the aging potential (he let us know that this would be a hard one for us to judge)?

Wine Tasting, Chelsea Market

And finally, David left us with the most important piece of information: in order to store wine properly, the bottles should be left on their side at 55° F (this we have been following since we started using a wine cooler) and kept in a humid area.  The humidity part is where we failed, but luckily it’s easy enough to fix: just place a damp sponge in the cooler and change it out every month.  While we are likely okay without the added humidity for most of our wines, this tip may save the bottles of Brunello di Montalcino that we brought back from Italy and plan to store for over 10-15 years.  Thank you, David!  The class was enjoyable and informative, and a great way to escape the afternoon heat!

High Priority New York City Tourism Sights & Experiences

On our trip to New York City, we purposefully wanted to plan a “non-touristy” itinerary.  We specifically chose a location away from Times Square, and searched for unique and local eateries for our meals.  However, we ultimately realized it would be impossible to completely avoid visiting some of New York’s top tourist attractions.  Below are some of the select experiences we chose to visit during our trip:

September 11 Memorial

9/11 Memorial

The September 11 Memorial was a clear must-see for us as members of Generation Y, with childhoods undoubtedly shaped by the tragic events of that day.  The newly-opened memorial is a fitting tribute to the heroes and lives lost that day.  At the time of our visit, construction was still progressing on a permanent museum and the dramatic Freedom Tower adjacent to the memorial.  The waterfalls and pools in the footprint of the 2 former towers are magnificent in both scale and beauty.  The sound of the moving water is soothing amidst the clammer of a bustling city.

We utilized the advanced reservation system offered on the 9/11 Memorial website, which allows you to select an entry time and skip an entry line for $2 per pass.  If you have a printer, you can report directly to the memorial site.  Unfortunately, we made our reservation after leaving on our trip and needed to pick-up our reservation pass at the “Preview Site”, which is quite a detour and required waiting in a queue that was longer than the non-reservation line at the site that day.  Make sure an look for the brochure guide after entering the site, which provides good background information on the memorial (we missed it at first in anticipation of checking-out the pools).

 The Met 

Metropolitan Museum of ArtWe wanted to visit at least one museum on our NYC trip, and after reviewing our options, the Met (short for Metropolitan Museum of Art) seemed like the obvious choice.  The size, variety, and significance of the Met’s collections astounded us.  Having visited the Louvre, the Prado, and other famous European art museums, we decided to focus our tour on American art.  The museum’s American Wing features gorgeous landscapes (our favorite was one of the Andes), prime examples of American impressionism, and even stained glass pieces by Louis Tiffany.  In addition, they have amazing artifacts from Greece, Asia, and an impressive European art collection of their own.  We finished our visit with a stop at the rooftop bar, which offers excellent panoramic views of Central Park.

The Met offers “pay as you wish” admission, with a suggested donation of $25.  Although expensive, the comprehensive exhibits at the Met may warrant the high price tag.  Our ticket agent was very forward with allowing us to pay an amount we deemed appropriate.  Since we weren’t spending the whole day at the Met, we decided $12 each would be sufficient.  We definitely plan on returning on our next visit.  During our half-day visit, we didn’t cover more than 5% of what the museum had to offer.

 Empire State Building Observation Deck

Empire State Building Observation Deck


The Empire State Building wasn’t on our original itinerary.  The high cost ($27/person to the 86th floor) and long lines deterred us.  However, after a broadway show, an excellent peruvian dinner, and many glasses of wine, it somehow seemed like a good idea for us to walk 2 miles across Manhattan to catch the last elevator up the Empire State Building at 1:30am!  I’m glad we did!  Remarkably, the observation deck at the Empire State Building is open until 2am every night, with the last elevator leaving around 1:30am.  Not surprisingly, we found absolutely no lines and were virtually alone on the observation deck.  I had previously viewed NYC from the Top of the Rock observation deck, but the vantage point is really no comparison to what is offered at the top of the Empire State Building.  For $44/person, visitors are offered a view from the 102nd floor, but I would doubt that the extra 16 floors is worth the expense.